January 10, 2015
The Peter R. Phillips Veterans Tennis Championships
Brandon Trophy tennis was a competition along Davis Cup lines played between the former British territories in the Caribbean from 1948 until 1992, when the territories were required to play in the Davis Cup competition as individual nations, rather than, collectively, as the ‘West Indies’, which had been the case previously. That decision, which also established a Caribbean/Central American division of the Davis Cup, made the Brandon Trophy tournament somewhat of a duplication and it was discontinued.
Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados were the early participants in the Brandon Trophy competition. St. Lucia entered in 1959 and The Bahamas in 1963. Grenada and St. Vincent joined in 1964.
The years from the early 1950’s to the late 1960’s were perhaps the golden years of the Brandon Trophy tournament. Trinidad, Jamaica and Guyana had fairly even strength in players and invariably the trophy moved between one or the other of these three territories with it being very rare that the defending champions successfully repeated their previous year’s victory.
This was the era of the Price and Valdez brothers along with Eric Deverteuil and Rene deLabastide from Trinidad, Ian McDonald and Derek Phang from Guyana, Arthur Scholefield, Peter Phillips, Mervyn Morris, Lance Lumsden, Richard Russell and David Tate from Jamaica, Irvine Skinner, Tyrone Mapp and Anthony Skinner from Barbados, while St. Lucia had Vincent Deveaux, Vincent Floissac and Hollis Bristol and The Bahamas had Junior Urich, Donald Archer, Bob Isaacs and Leo Rolle.
The rivalry and the competition were extremely keen but the sportsmanship, the social interchange and the camaraderie that developed between the participating teams was a parallel aspect of the tournaments of that era that led to an enduring respect and friendship among the participants.
It was from among these players that the first Brandon Veterans tennis group came into being and led to the first tournament being held in 1981 at the Ocean Club on Paradise Island, Nassau, in The Bahamas. Peter Phillips, who had been living in The Bahamas at that time, was visiting in Trinidad in 1980 and went to the Tranquility Square Tennis Club where a Brandon tournament was in progress. There he ran into his Trinidadian contemporaries and together they reminisced at length about the wonderful ’old days’ of Brandon tournaments.
“We should do something about trying to recreate those truly great times” said someone. And Peter Phillips undertook to do just that.
It was decided that rather than playing an inter-territorial team competition it would be run as a regular tournament open to players (initially it was just men) over forty years of age who were either former Brandon players or who were recommended by a former Brandon player. The tournament was called the Caribbean Senior Invitational Tennis Championships.
That first tournament attracted eighteen players but there was an additional eight wives who accompanied husbands to Nassau.
Patsy Russell, a former Jamaica Lawn Tennis Association secretary, assisted Peter Phillips with the running of the tournament and continued to do so until 1984. She was the prime organizer of the second tournament held at the Rose Hall Intercontinental Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica and of the fourth tournament at the La Toc Hotel in St. Lucia.
In 1982 a plate singles event was introduced and in 1988 the age level for the men's singles was raised to 45. In 1990 an over 60 singles event was included and the plate event thereafter accommodated first round losers from both singles events. In 2008 an over 70 singles for men was introduced.
Although ladies events had been held on a trial basis in 1987 and in 1993, it was not until 1997 that it was established, along with ladies doubles as an official event of the tournament. The ladies' is a 40 and over event. In 2006 a ladies over 60 singles event was introduced.
Mixed doubles which was played from time to time but was not an official event became so in 2005.
In 1989, the loose arrangement of players being invited, or others hearing about the tournament and asking if they could come and play was formalized by the establishment of a ’club’ - the Brandon Veterans Tennis Club (now re-named The Peter R. Phillips Veterans Tennis Championships). A life membership was available at that time for a fee of US $50.00, but over time this was increased to US $100, then to $200 and in 2006 to $250. An annual membership is available at US $50 per year, but because of the burden of accounting/mailing requirements that this necessitated, it has been discouraged and all members are now life members.
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